Vonnegut, Kurt - Breakfast of Champions
Type of Spiritual Experience
His divorce and the nervous breakdown of his son Mark, plunger Vonnegut into chronic 'depression' - grief, and led him to take Ritalin. When he stopped taking the drug in the mid-1970s, he began to see a psychologist weekly. The problem is that Ritalin can damage the brain, it may be temporary but it can be permanent, and this evil drug resulted in Vonnegut suffering from writer’s block.
Vonnegut's difficulties materialized in numerous ways; most distinctly though, was the painfully slow progress he was making on his next novel, the darkly comical Breakfast of Champions.
In 1971, Vonnegut stopped writing the novel altogether.
When it was finally released in 1973, it was panned critically. In Thomas S. Hischak's book American Literature on Stage and Screen, Breakfast of Champions was called "funny and outlandish", but reviewers noted that it "lacks substance and seems to be an exercise in literary playfulness."
Vonnegut's 1976 novel Slapstick, which meditates on the relationship between him and his sister (Alice), met a similar fate. In The New York Times's review of Slapstick, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said Vonnegut "seems to be putting less effort into [storytelling] than ever before", and that "it still seems as if he has given up storytelling after all."
Needless to say this criticism did not help Vonegut’s depression, one iota.
A description of the experience
Eliza and I composed a precocious critique of the Constitution of the United States of America … We argued that is was as good a scheme for misery as any, since its success in keeping the common people reasonably happy and proud depended on the strength of the people themselves — and yet it prescribed no practical machinery which would tend to make the people, as opposed to their elected representatives, strong.
We said it was possible that the framers of the Constitution were blind to the beauty of persons who were without great wealth or powerful friends or public office, but who were nonetheless genuinely strong.
We thought it was more likely, though, that their framers had not noticed that it was natural, and therefore almost inevitable, that human beings in extraordinary and enduring situations should think of themselves of composing new families. Eliza and I pointed out that this happened no less in democracies than in tyrannies, since human beings were the same the wide world over, and civilized only yesterday.
Elected representatives, hence, could be expected to become members of the famous and powerful family of elected representatives — which would, perfectly naturally, make them wary and squeamish and stingy with respect to all the other sorts of families which, again, perfectly naturally, subdivided mankind.
Eliza and I … proposed that the Constitution be amended so as to guarantee that every citizen, no matter how humble, or crazy or incompetent or deformed, somehow be given membership in some family as covertly xenophobic and crafty as the one their public servants formed.